Cricket World Cup 2011

Freak knock SA’s only fear?

2011-03-22 11:06
Graeme Smith (File)

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – New Zealanders themselves appear to be under no illusions that the purring Proteas will enter their World Cup quarter-final against the Black Caps on Friday as firm favourites.

They are also, not unexpectedly, pinning their Dhaka hopes on a Kiwi batsman producing a “Stephen Fleming II” as likeliest passport to a shock last-four passage.

Former captain Fleming, more recently linked to the South African coaching vacancy after the World Cup, played an innings of rare purpose and aggression at the 2003 World Cup on our soil to inspire his charges to a crushing nine-wicket triumph (albeit aided just a little by the Duckworth-Lewis method) over the host nation in a pool fixture at the Wanderers.

Fleming’s unbeaten 134 off 132 balls – his best knock in a career eventually spanning 280 ODIs – helped eclipse the earlier effort of Herschelle Gibbs (143 off 141 deliveries) for South Africa as the Proteas’ stuttering campaign took a further lurch backwards.  

Now New Zealanders clearly feel a similar solo whirlwind is required to get past the altogether more cohesive, it seems, Proteas class of 2011.

In the New Zealand Herald, World Cup correspondent Andrew Alderson has suggested “Brendon McCullum or Ross Taylor are cast in the lead role” of trying to re-enact Fleming’s feat eight years ago.

“Can Taylor produce another wagon wheel through the leg-side that looks like an umbrella bent back in a Wellington wind? (Or) McCullum produce a Kolkata Knight Riders-like 158?”

The likelier scenario, he suggested, was that New Zealand “promise the world in the field and deliver a tatty, dog-eared atlas with the bat”.

It is difficult not to agree from a South African point of view that, especially if the Proteas get their team selection correct – they have already benefited from one successful outing on the Shere Bangla pitch – Graeme Smith’s outfit should be just too strong and clinical, man for man, for the Black Caps.

These are my own tips for the remaining three quarter-finals:

Pakistan v West Indies (Wednesday, Dhaka): Pakistan win

There do appear to be flashes of greater West Indian resolve under the captaincy of Darren Sammy, even if he justifies his own place in the side with rather less conviction than ever-languid predecessor Chris Gayle. But I still see Pakistan coming out on top despite their temperamental fickleness – beating Australia was a massive tonic and reminder that for pure talent the troubled country continues to somehow produces the goods. With Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi routinely to the fore, their attack has more of a cutting edge and suited-to-conditions feel to it.

India v Australia (Thursday, Ahmedabad): India win

Not too many years ago, any side facing an Aussie outfit smarting from upset defeat would be quaking in their boots at the prospect of a backlash of note. The weekend defeat to Pakistan, however, arguably served more as a reminder of present-day Australian fallibility than anything else. India can rub further salt into the wound ... especially if they weather the early, hard-ball bombardment of Brett Lee and unpredictable wildcard Shaun Tait. Best Aussie hope is MS Dhoni’s team slumping to a 25 for three sort of scenario, whichever way around they bat on the expected featherbed. Rival captain Ricky Ponting coming across as a rather tormented, incendiary soul at the World Cup probably isn’t helping the Australian cause. Still, this game, which is useful to the Proteas in terms of one of their main rivals definitely exiting the tourney now, could go particularly close to the wire ...

Sri Lanka v England (Saturday, Colombo): Sri Lanka win

Ah, England! If they were a cat, seven or eight of their nine lives would have been used up, considering their rollercoaster ride through the CWC. Still such a long way from looking compelling collectively, it is hard to escape a feeling that coming up against a class outfit like the Lankans in their own backyard will finally put them out of their misery. England’s best hope is a particularly major innings from captain Andrew Strauss and/or Jonathan Trott’s continued strides toward becoming a clone of Jacques Kallis for unflappability and controlled accumulation at the crease. But I envisage angst – too much angst – for their attack against Kumar Sangakkara and company.

*Should all four matches be decided by the Sport24 template, South Africa, the only remaining non-Subcontinent team, will move on to play Sri Lanka in a semi at Colombo and India square up to Pakistan in the mother of all “derby” battles in Mohali.


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